The last time the deadliest volcano in the planet exploded it was 1815. It killed more than 71,000 people on the spot and it was responsible for a volcanic winter that caused the worst worldwide famine of the 19th century.
Now it may explode again.
Its name is Mount Tambora and it's located in the island of Sumbawa, Indonesia. And while it wasn't the most powerful volcano explosion in history, it's the one that caused more direct and indirect deaths.
When it happened in April 1815, Sumbawa was obliterated. The caldera collapsed then, following some months of heavy activity. Most of the island's population was killed and its vegetation was reduced to ashes. Some trees were uprooted and pushed into the sea along with ash, creating three-mile-long rafts. And tsunamis generated by the explosion affected islands nearby.
But its destructive power wasn't just limited to that area. It affected the entire world. The volcano's ash rose into a column that reached 140,000 feet (43 kilometers) high, right into the stratosphere. The heaviest particles eventually went down, but a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil remained for years, dimming the sunlight everywhere. This disrupted the entire global climate in a big way, which started a chain of events that killed millions through the Northern Hemisphere.
Deadly volcanic winter
The next year there was no summer and temperatures went down an average of 0.5 degrees Celsius. It doesn't seem like a lot but the suspended sulfur released by the volcano caused agricultural crops to fail and livestock to die everywhere. The United States experienced extreme frosts and heavy snow well into July, ruining everything in the fields. The same happened elsewhere, causing a worldwide famine. This famine helped to spread a new strain of cholera in Asia and a typhus epidemic in southeast Europe and the eastern Mediterranean. It wasn't fun at all.
Experts are now saying that Mount Tambora is ready to erupt again. A steady stream of earthquakes are shaking the island, from less than five a month in April to more than 200 now. Columns of ash are already venting as high as 4,600 feet.
The authorities have already established a 2-mile danger perimeter and its inhabitants are fleeing under government orders. But most of the people know the story from 1815 and don't need any orders to start running. In fact, people outside of the danger zone are also fleeing out of pure fear.
Nobody knows for sure if Mount Tambora would explode with the same intensity as it did in 1815 and nobody knows when it would explode. But we know it is awakening, and that's not good at all. [Wikipedia, AP]